BIOMIMICRY The Case of the Plant Yacon

UTSC Student Number Due to high radiation, too much sunlight can be harmful to plants and thus compensate their ability to photosynthesize. Photosynthesis has important byproducts essential to the environment and the plant itself. Extreme sunlight may give rise to high temperature that result to faster transpiration rate of plants and destruction of the cell membrane. This further leads to impaired growth, cell destruction and plant death. Thus, it is essential to determine plant mechanisms and abilities by which they are able to cope with stress such as too much radiation from the sun (The All I Need 2005). Some plants have antioxidant properties essential for their protection from the harmful rays of sun.

Antioxidants such as Vitamins E, C and carotenoids from fruits, vegetables and whole grains give protection against damages leading to diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Such diseases are brought about by the intake of free-radicals through diet and also from direct contact from the sun. Hazardous radiation from the sun such as ultraviolet rays bring about skin damages and thus can lead to skin cancer especially to people who have low melanin contents.

A plant that is said to have an antioxidant property is Yacon (Smallanthus sonchifolius). Thus juicy tuber vegetable is found in South America and is used to lower blood sugar of diabetics and also aid in better food digestion. Also, yacon syrup was found out to lead to weight loss. Bitter-melon and cinnamon are also some plants that have antioxidant abilities.

Fructose, glucose, sucrose, oligosaccharides, and traces of starch and insulin are constituents found in yacon roots mentioned by Ray. This antioxidant plant also contains small amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals. After the extraction process done on the tuber and leaves, it was found out that yacon has high potential as antioxidant and so, yacon extract was used to treat free-radical induced diseases such as arteriosclerosis. Yacon roots can be utilized in various ways. It can be eaten raw, stewed, grated and squeezed to serve as a drink. Yacon roots can also be sliced thinly to be fried and serve as chips. Tea made from yacon leaves serve as hypoglycemic agent.

The high fructooligosaccharide content of yacon has several functions. This constituent of this tuber plant can cause the lowering of sugar, cholesterol, triglyceride and caloric level. It also prevents the development of cavities but promote the growth of beneficial bacteria like Bifidobacterium sp. By eating the plant raw may also give some of the benefits mentioned.

Phenolic acids were isolated from the crude extract of yacon leaves through TLC (Thin Layer Chromatography) plate sprayed with 1, 1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH). Some of the extracted phenolic acids found in yacon leaves and tubers are Ferulic acid and chlorogenic acid. These acids are the constituents found out to give significant inhibition activity to radicals.

A study executed by Xiaojun et al states that Smallanthus sonchifolius has important economical and clinical value because of its beneficial effects to diabetics. This was proved through the use of 1, 1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) assay. Methanol was use as extracting solvent and gel permeation chromatography and preparative reverse-phase HOLC was used as purification technique. Chlorogenic acid and tryptophan were the identified antioxidants through mass spectrometry. Biomimicry provides less synthetic products and produce organic products that give innovations to aid in various problems.


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